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Studying Alessia Cara's Vocals WK3

Studying Alessia Cara's Vocals WK2

WK 2 of studying Alessia Cara's vocals. Just a quick recap from WK 1, Alessia Cara was discovered on YouTube which shot her to fame. Her cover of The Neighbourhood "Sweater Weather" was the video that got the attention of Tony Perez's daughter, who eventually showed it to him, a record executive from EP Entertainment. Not long after, she was offered studio time and BAM her first single through Def Jam Records at the age of 18, "Here".


In her debut single, "Here" from her first album, Know-It-All, was written where she was starting her music career but was still in High School. "Here" describes a party she had gone to the night before the day she was supposed to write and record with her co-writer, Sebastian Kole. She started ranting about this party she went to where all her friends were there but somehow felt so uncomfortable. They ended up writing all the things that made her feel uncomfortable, made a list of the things she saw at the party to recreate the setting and vibe, the things that she was doing, and how she wanted her mom to pick her up so that she could leave early. Little did she know that it would become today's anthem for all introverts stranded at parties worldwide. Still one of her favourite songs she ever made.


Honestly, if I were her, and being that this is my first track, I would be so proud of myself. The level of maturity that only a seasoned vocalist would have shown has just been displayed.

Lyrical Emphasis

From the first verse, you can sing this song as monotonous as you please as this song has the potential to be boring without the proper lyrical emphasis that she uses to keep things interesting.

I'm sorry if I seem uninterested Or I'm not listenin' or I'm indifferent Truly, I ain't got no business here But since my friends are here, I just came to kick it

Intensity Level

From the get-go, this song feels like it starts on a 6/7 medium level on a scale of 10. It feels like it is heading for a big climax but as listeners, we will never get the resolve, it goes on and on spiralling like a bad dream. I believe it is intentional to include you in this anxiety that she is feeling. I thought it was brilliant. As an introvert myself, I relate so well to this feeling and this song was just like my favourite Tom Yum Fish Soup where I am dripping tears and water from the heat and spiciness but finding my hand feeding myself another spoonful of punishment. It brings the anxiety loop to an audio experience and that in itself takes it to another level of relating to it.

As a performer, I can already think of vocal issues that might happen if this was performed live. Without looking at any live performances, I would think about how to maintain the intensity level at a medium that could affect my pitchiness as I will be excited and energy is at a 9-10? How do I make this exciting for my audience as this is a monotonous piece? How do I engage my audience?

Her first debut performance was on The Tonight Show but somehow it was taken down. so instead let's analyse her second live performance available on The Ellen Show.

Here are some things I observed and a few things we can learn from her very first few performances.

Distinct Glottal Attack

The glottal attack is one of the three choices vocalists have to approach singing our notes. For this instance, Alessia's choice was a glottal attack in all of the highlighted and underlined vowels. Notice that her main focus was the vowels which leave her in a good position for vocal freedom while singing.

Sorryee if I seem uninterested Or I'm not listenin' or I'm indifferent Trulyee, I ain't got no business here But since m-aiy friends are here, I just came to kick it

If you have never noticed this before, experiment and give it a go. For some, it comes naturally due to the glottal attacks we use as we speak and for some, it may feel rough and aggressive.

How to vocalise a glottal attack?

To make this glottal attack, you need to think of throwing a punch with your vocal cords. Now, how do we actually do that? Try to vocalise these sounds and feel where most of the work is happening:

  1. Say "uh-oh" You can mimic the red Teletubby if it helps you visualise.

  2. Try exclaiming "oo-oo, ah-ah" Try mimicking a monkey

  3. Saying the Vowels "a, e, i, o, oo" Same sentiments as to how the monkey sound was produced, use only the vowels and just say them like you are emphasising each and every one of them individually.

What to visualise when making this sound?

For further visualisation of how important the cord closure is, you would want to think about pushing yourself off the latch of the swimming pool. When you begin to swim, no one ever starts from the middle. Everyone starts from a side of the pool and uses the edge to give a good push, right? Same thing for a glottal attack. To make a clean vocal production of sound, you will need a good start, that is when "cord closure" comes in handy.

Signs that your glottal attack is not successful

Without cord closure, what happens? The sound that will be produced will be airy and disconnected. The issue that comes with this airy sound would be the breathlessness you would feel singing, you can't seem to project your voice and you feel like no matter how much air you breathe in is never enough.

Why use this attack?

  • Vocal presence and attitude

  • Note stability and resonance

  • Vocal Dynamics- Most aggressive compared to Smooth & Aspirated

There are many wonderful singers that uses this attack tastefully, one honourable mention would be Ella Eyre. Everyone should try this sound out!

The Adrenaline from the Performance

As mentioned earlier, the characteristics of this sound feel like it is building up to a huge release which never comes so in a live performance controlling your adrenaline at a 6- 7, a medium energy level is really difficult when it is your debut on national television. The ability to be aware of coping with your nerves or excitement can make or break your live performance. Many don't think about this but when you are practicing in the studio or repeating 100 times in your room is totally different when you are put on a stage singing to the nation. Even Beyonce herself says that the nervous feeling before she starts a show is always there. Seasoned performers account for it.

You can hear her pitchiness when the band builds up in the chorus. What happened was that she got excited and in that excitement, the body naturally zips up her larynx, tightening the throat even more than she needs for the glottal attacks, making her notes sound slightly pitchy (from 1:12). She quickly recovers singing her second verse and remembers that the glottal attack is all she needs to sound resonant without the extra push from her adrenaline.

For her second big live performance, she is doing a bomb-ass job, killing it like she owns that stage. I am not sure if she prepped for this but knowing that you may be accumulating pent-up energy standing with your microphone stand, a good move she did was to ditch that stand and move around the stage so the energy can dispense elsewhere other than your voice. This also shows the audience a difference in dynamics.


There is little you can do vocally to show off your range and dynamics in this song. The way she moved with her mic stand and after ditching it does give a contrast of the level in dynamics. Another way she used was playing with the original melody, introducing some tasty high notes (2:15 "Oh God, why am I here?").

This is something as a recording an artist you can think about. I noticed this trick that Bruno Mars does where he keeps it simple in his CD tracks and when you come to see him live, he adds all the delicious vocal acrobatics he can think of and serves it on a nice platter. Many young artists are eager to prove themselves in the studio but if you want your fans to learn how to sing the main melody with you at your concert then this is a smarter way to approach it. While they sing the melody, you can go off in crazy adlibs blowing them away. Which you can see and hear in the next vocal analysis video, where her experience and creativeness come together so beautifully for a new version of her song.



To analyze her voice from when she started to now, we will be breaking down her recent cover of her own song in the next post. LIVE RECORDING- LIVE OFF THE FLOOR WK 3

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